Portland, OR (PRWEB) November 10, 2004
One out of every three couples now brings a child to their marriage. And about half of all Americans will at some point in their lives take part in stepfamily life.*
ÂStudies show that stepfamilies face the highest levels of stress and are more likely to split up during their early years,Â** says William Merkel, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and co-author of the newly released book, "One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories And Advice For Stepfamilies," which is a 2004 Gold National Parenting Publications Award winner.
ÂExpectations of a ÂBrady BunchÂ-style family where everyone has the same values and lifestyle can set stepfamilies up for failure, especially during the first few years,Â he says. New stepfamilies often have these ÂBrady BunchÂ expectations during the holiday season, he adds. ÂInstead of trying to behave a certain way, stepfamilies need to creatively and patiently create a life that suits their family members.Â
Seven years ago, Merkel and his life partner and co-author Lisa Cohn were determined to weather the first tumultuous years of stepfamily life when they made a commitment to each other. With their three children from previous marriages, they formed what they now call the ÂLiberated Stepfamily.Â
ÂWe want to liberate stepfamilies from the fantasy that they have to act like traditional, first-marriage families where Âall-for-one, one-for-allÂ is the mantraÂespecially during the holiday season,Â says Cohn, a writer whose work appears in national publications.
In their new book, they recount their experiences trying to unite CohnÂs urban, messy, health-food-centered lifestyle with MerkelÂs suburban, tidy, pizza-and-chocolate-flavored life.
Their efforts were fraught with conflict, emotion and surprises. But they continually sought creative ways to peacefully and respectfully co-exist, despite their different cultures and values.
The result is anything but conventional. In their book, they recount why they:
Â Keep separate refrigerators and checkbooks
Â Decorated the Christmas tree with a ÂhersÂ side--hand-painted eggs and popcorn strings--and a ÂhisÂ side--multi-colored, blinking lights and sparkling orbs and tinsel
Â Established different TV rules for ÂhisÂ kids and ÂherÂ kids
Â Invited their ex-spouses over for Christmas
Cohn and Merkel can share their experiences forming their stepfamily with the hope of helping others going through the same growing pains. They are available for interviews, as well as CohnÂs son, Travis, (15), their ÂoursÂ child, Ally (6), and CohnÂs ex-husband.
Cohn and Merkel advise adults creating a new stepfamily:
Â Clarify your role as stepparent: mom/dad, friend, aunt/uncle?
Â Examine and let go of your Âtraditional,Â first-marriage expectations.
Â DonÂt push to ÂblendÂ familiesÂlet it happen in its own time and let it take its own form.
Â Master the art of silence. You donÂt need to share all your negative feelings.
Â Make the superhuman effort to get along with your ex-spouse and your new spouseÂs ex.
Â Once a week, create a ÂLove BubbleÂ with your spouse. DonÂt talk about kids.
Â Stepdads: Follow MerkelÂs example and never give up on an unresponsive stepchild. Your efforts will be rewarded. ***
Â Stepmoms: Work hard to avoid the ÂGive-too-much-and-feel-resentfulÂ trap, especially during the holidays.
Lisa Cohn is an-award-winning writer whose stories about stepfamilies have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Mothering, Parenting, Brain, Child: The Magazine For Thinking Mothers, United Press International, Portland Tribune, iparenting.com, Your Stepfamily and other publications. Read her articles by visiting http://www.stepfamilyadvice.com.
William Merkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist who teaches at Providence Portland Medical Center and has a private practice. A former Associate Professor at Oregon Health Sciences University, he is a Fellow in the American Academy of Clinical Psychology and an Approved Supervisor in the American Association For Marriage and Family Therapy.
'One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories and Advice for Stepfamilies" ( ISBN 1-883991749; list price $16.95) is published by RiverWood Books. For more information, visit the authorsÂ website, http://www.stepfamilyadvice.com.
- From Stepfamily Association of America
**About 60% of second marriages fail. Most second marriages fail during the early years of stepfamily life. It takes five to seven years for early tensions to abate in stepfamilies, according to three studies by E. Mavis Hetherington and others conducted 1989-2000: The Virginia Longitudinal Study of Divorce and Remarriage; The Hetherington and Clingempeel Study of Divorce and Remarriage; and The National Study of Nonshared Environment.
***Most stepfathers give up the struggle of connecting with resisting stepchildren after two years, according to the three Hetherington studies mentioned above.
Lisa Cohn, co-author,
Steve Scholl, RiverWood Books
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